Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Interesting Historical Comparisons

Lately there has been some controversy over comparisons of Bush to Hitler or to the rise of fascism in Europe. I personally think that comparison is unfortunate and deeply inaccurate. As a part-time, amateur history buff, I find the analogy of 21st Century America to Imperial Rome more apt and true than any analogy with Hitler or fascism.

Even in the most totalitarian period of the Roman Empire, they kept paying lip service to their democratic values, even though they were a de facto dictatorship. Think of the irony of Roman legions conquering, subjecting, killing and torturing "barbarian" peoples in the name of "Roman civility," democracy, and SPQR (For the People and Senate of Rome). Just like us dismantling civil rights and democracy in order to "preserve it", Ashcroft-style.

Emperor Caracalla and especially Emperor Nero come to mind when finding a historical parallel to our own Emperor. The case of Nero rings particularly true during the great fire of Rome of 64 AD.

History has brought to us the caricature of Nero, fiddling while Rome burned, but that's nothing short of a cartoon by his political opponents.

Rome was going through a period of great wealth and prosperity by the time Nero got to power, but soon crime and decadence started to surge in the city. He was widely criticized for taking long vacations in his countryside palace while the population of Rome had to deal with all sorts of problems. When the great fire of Rome took place (64 AD), Nero wasn't even in Rome, but in his vacation resort in Antium (hence the cartoon). The Roman population was desolated; thousands died in the catastrophe. Conspiracy theorists claimed Nero himself had orchestrated the fire. Nero was getting some serious political heat for his inattention of Rome and his long vacations while that terrible tragedy happened.

Nero's move amids the accusations was to quickly pin the blame on that new cult, the Christians, and started a campaign of detentions, torture and executions of Christians. Thousands of innocent people were tortured, crucified, and fed to the lions in the circus. People that were even suspected of being Christian were arrested too. The people of Rome cheered, as if avenging the fire of Rome. Nero became a hero to his people for exercising a heavy hand in fighting crime and the terrors of the new cult.

There are other interesting comparisons to Nero:

If the historical parallel continues, Nero served several senatorial terms (oy!), but was impeached and unseated by the Senate (!!!)

On Edit:

It gets better! This will make your head spin:

Nero came to replace the previous emperor, the Roman intellectual and scholar Claudius, who was brought down by a conspiracy of officers and senators. Claudius was one of the greatest Roman Emperors (like Julius Caesar and Trajan).

No Lewinsky scandal in the case of Claudius, though, but his wife Valeria "Rhodam" Messalina was widely despised by the Roman elites. They gave her a reputation for greed, ambition, and bizarre lust, supposedly unknown to her husband.

Claudius had banished Nero's mom, the infamous Agrippina, from Rome. Unable to get over this grave insult, she conspired with friendly officers and senators to bring Claudius down, but it was difficult since he wasn't easy to corrupt. They ended up removing Claudius by force, and installing Nero.

Agrippina had finally avenged the great insult of getting banished from Rome, her rightful place.

If you can rent the old BBC production of "I, Claudius" by Robert Graves, please do so. It was a great TV series, with extraordinary acting, and great historical perspective on all these characters, and also Caligula, played by a young John Hurt.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Reporter Apologizes for Iraq Coverage - Hell Freezes Over!!!

It happened. It finally happened.

Mark the calendar because today we may have just witnessed a bizarre and unique rupture in the space-time continuum!

A year after the fact, the first journalist apologizes for his role in the shameful coverage of the run-up to the war and the conflict in Iraq. I hope it becomes a trend:
Editor & Publisher: Reporter Apologizes for Iraq Coverage

"The media are finished with their big blowouts on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and there is one thing they forgot to say: We're sorry," Rick Mercier wrote, in a column published Sunday in The Free Lance-Star. (...)

Sorry we let unsubstantiated claims drive our coverage. Sorry we were dismissive of experts who disputed White House charges against Iraq. Sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us. Sorry we fell for Colin Powell's performance at the United Nations. Sorry we couldn't bring ourselves to hold the administration's feet to the fire before the war, when it really mattered. (...)

I'm frankly speechless. There's still hope after all.

Now, Mr. Wolf Blitzer, Ms. Paula Zahn, Mr. Tom Friedman, Mr. William Safire, Mr. Fred Barnes, Mr. Howard Fineman, Mr. Christopher Hitchens, Ms. Peggy Noonan, Mr. Brit Hume, Mr. Bill O'Reilly, and the rest of your poorly distinguished colleagues...


Monday, March 29, 2004

Condi's Credibility Gap

The Center for American Progress analyzes the lies of Condoleezza, point by point:
CLAIM: "In June and July when the threat spikes were so high…we were at battle stations." – National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: "Documents indicate that before Sept. 11, Ashcroft did not give terrorism top billing in his strategic plans for the Justice Department, which includes the FBI. A draft of Ashcroft's 'Strategic Plan' from Aug. 9, 2001, does not put fighting terrorism as one of the department's seven goals, ranking it as a sub-goal beneath gun violence and drugs. By contrast, in April 2000, Ashcroft's predecessor, Janet Reno, called terrorism 'the most challenging threat in the criminal justice area.'" Meanwhile, the Bush Administration decided to terminate "a highly classified program to monitor Al Qaeda suspects in the United States." [Source: Washington Post, 3/22/04; Newsweek, 3/21/04]

CLAIM: "The fact of the matter is [that] the administration focused on this before 9/11." – National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: President Bush and Vice President Cheney's counterterrorism task force, which was created in May, never convened one single meeting. The President himself admitted that "I didn't feel the sense of urgency" about terrorism before 9/11. [Source: Washington Post, 1/20/02; Bob Woodward's "Bush at War"]

CLAIM: "Our [pre-9/11 NSPD] plan called for military options to attack al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other targets -- taking the fight to the enemy where he lived." – National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: 9/11 Commissioner Gorelick: "There is nothing in the NSPD that came out that we could find that had an invasion plan, a military plan." Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage: "Right." Gorelick: "Is it true, as Dr. Rice said, 'Our plan called for military options to attack Al Qaida and Taliban leadership'?" Armitage: "No, I think that was amended after the horror of 9/11." [Source: 9/11 Commission testimony, 3/24/04]
There's more, much more in that analysis. Must-read material!

Friday, March 26, 2004

Politics Trumps Morality... and Security as Well

Jon Stewart explained to us last night, in light of the attacks against Clarke by White House officials, that in D.C., "Politics Trumps Morality." Well, add "security" there too.

According to this news report, the Republicans are going so out of their way to discredit Clarke they are planning on declassifying sensitive information from 2002 to use it against him.
Republicans Want 2002 Clarke Testimony DeclassifiedWASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top congressional Republicans sought on Friday to declassify testimony Richard Clarke gave in July 2002 that they said discredits the former White House adviser's criticism of President Bush's response to the terrorism threat.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist questioned whether Clarke had lied to Congress, and said testimony Clarke gave nearly two years ago about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks should -- in a rare move -- be made public. (...)

So, there you have it: as long as it's used for political purposes, they can declassify sensitive information pertinent to our own anti-terrorism efforts.

If one thing is clear after Clarke's testimony and its aftermath, it is the nastiness this administration uses against those who dissent or stray from the official line. They are demonstrating they are ruthless and willing to sacrifice not just their moral precepts, but our security as well, to pursue their political vendettas.

Bush Building a Bridge to the Late 20th Century

Copying a page straight out of the Clinton/Gore book, Bush urges the nation to push for high-speed Internet access. For real:
Bush Pushes for High-Speed Internet Access by 2007

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) - President Bush (news - web sites) on Friday urged affordable high-speed Internet access be available to all Americans by 2007 and that they have several choices for the service, known as broadband.

"We ought to have universal, affordable access to broadband technology by the year 2007," Bush said in a speech focusing mostly on homeownership. "And then we ought to make sure that as soon as possible thereafter consumers have plenty of choices..." (...)

That is "so nineties." Do you remember when Clinton/Gore pushed for this back in 1995? They used to call it the "Information Superhighway." Do you remember how Al Gore pushed in the senate for legislation to help the advancement of this technology? It was the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Is Bush trying to take credit for "inventing the Internet" in 2004?

On edit:

In similar news, the GOP just discovered those weird, "secret" things called "blogs." Boy, do they have some catching up to do!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Rick Santorum 2 : American Women 0

Today the senate passed "Step 2" of what can be considered the plan of the Christian Coalition and the Republican party to ban women's rights in America:
Senate Passes Fetus Protection Bill

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to make it a separate crime to harm a fetus during commission of a violent federal crime, a victory for those seeking to expand the legal rights of the unborn. (...)

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the bill was "powerful because this act is about simple humanity, about simple reality."

But abortion rights lawmakers contended that giving a fetus, from the point of conception, the same legal rights as its mother sets a precedent that could be used in future legal challenges to abortion rights. (...)

I wanted to remind you of "Step 1" of this plan, which took place only a few months back:

As members of congress look on, President Bush signs the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2003 in Washington.

(While I did perform the PhotoShop magic on that photo, I didn't have a blog to host it back then. Thanks to Atrios for hosting that image.)

"Step 3" will be the decimation of Roe v. Wade. Soon after we will be living in the America of The Handmaid's Tale.

Please donate to the John Kerry campaign. We need to send these religious zealots back to their home states this November.

Suggested Reading

I've extremely busy today, and unable to post much, but I'll leave you with a selection of articles I strongly recommend you:

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Worth a Thousand Words

Tom Toles just rocks:

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

And the Lies Continue...

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo points that James Woolsey was just pushing the long debunked Saddam-Al Qaeda connection on Lou Dobb's "Moneyline" (CNN). James Woolsey is a former CIA director and one of the major players in the run-up to the Iraqi invasion (he's one of the original members of the neocon PNAC).

They must be getting really desperate about the 9/11 investigation and the revelations by Clarke if they have to dispatch Woolsey around the talk-show circuit to peddle the same old lies they used to sell us the war on Iraq.

Cheney's Wacky Attack on Clarke

Richard Clarke predicted the White House was going to unleash the dogs on him for his revelations. First to come out was Condi with some contorted slander on Clarke's qualifications.

Now Cheney comes out from his hidey-hole to say this pathetic nonsense on the Rush Limbaugh hate-fest:
"He wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff," Vice President Cheney said on Rush Limbaugh's radio program.

Tucson Citizen
Richard Clarke "wasn't in the loop"?

I'm sorry, but Richard Clarke WAS THE LOOP. He was the top adviser on counter-terrorism since the Reagan administration.

The only loop that apparently Clarke wasn't in was that cabal of neocons that planned the Iraqi invasion from day one, and that later profited from it. Clarke probably wasn't in the loop in those secret energy meetings that Cheney conducted and still hides from public scrutiny.

Cheney's attack on Clarke is weak and silly, and has some troublesome implications (like, why would they leave the top expert in counter-terrorism "out of the loop"?). Richard Clarke was the expert on these matters, and it's becoming painfully obvious that Cheney, as well as the rest of his administration, should have paid him more attention.

Slander in the Morning

Two media atrocities to spoil my breakfast:

  • On the strange "Imus in the Morning," the place where wingnuts and closet GOP elves in our media go to vent, the indescribably nasty Laura Ingraham (professional Republican motormouth) slandered Richard Clarke with all sorts of questions on his professionalism, his patriotism, and his "true dedication" to fight terrorism. The woman was foaming from the mouth, spewing angry lies and invective, so weak and nasty it was a caricature. She even had the gall to say that "Richard Clarke never actually told Condoleeza Rice that Al Qaeda was going to use plains against us," and that "all Americans should be ashamed of Richard Clarke." That was as much Republican vitriol I could take on an empty stomach, so I changed to CNN.

  • On CNN "American Morning," a smiley Kelly Wallace tells us how "troublesome" it is for Kerry that the FBI was spying him in the 60s. A smirking Wallace mentioned this would make it impossible for Kerry to use his experience in the Vietnam as part of his resume, since the FBI had investigated him for so much stuff.

    I mean, instead of this revelations making the FBI look like the nasty McCarthyites they were under Hoover, apparently this makes Kerry look bad, because they were spying on him for speaking against the Vietnam War. Interestingly enough, Wallace didn't mention how using old FBI files to attack Kerry makes the Bush campaign look. Never mind that, of course...

    Breakfast spoiled.

  • Monday, March 22, 2004

    Right on cue, they unleashed the dogs on Clarke

    As we predicted last night, the White House has unleashed the dogs on Clarke after his devastating revelations on "Sixty Minutes." They did this to O'Neill and they are doing it to Clarke. The media have definitely picked up on this story:
    Bush Accused of Ignoring Al Qaeda Until After 9/11
    The first one to show up in the news circuit barking lies and slandering the heroic career of Richard Clarke was Condoleeza Rice. She claimed that Clarke is "disgruntled" (lie, he resigned out of frustration and write his book out of a sense of duty), and she also claimed that Clarke is in cahoots with Kerry, expecting a position in a Kerry administration (another lie, Clarke himself said this morning on Good Morning America that he has retired from government, he has nothing to do with the Kerry campaign, and has no claims to a post in a future Kerry administration.

    Richard Clarke just published a book today called Against All Enemies that tells all the nasty details on how much this administration ignored the threat of terrorism until it was too late.

    Sunday, March 21, 2004

    They dropped the ball...

    Just saw the devastating interview of Richard Clarke on "Sixty Minutes" (CBS). It was the most incriminating report so far about the mishandling of security and the war on terrorism by the Bush administration.

    What's more, Clarke told us that the Bush team (and Bush himself) asked him to find a link between 9/11 and Iraq. Every time Clarke would research that possible link, run it through the CIA and come back with a report indicating that there was no link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, the Bush administration would reject it saying "wrong answer." Outrageous.

    Clarke came across as a sincere man, frustrated by what he saw in the White House, and sickened by the missing opportunities that could have prevented 9/11.

    Richard Clarke is publishing a book tomorrow called Against All Enemies that tells all these details and much, much more. You know the Rove minions are going the unleash the bulldogs on him; in the coming weeks you'll see RNC denunciations of this patriotic hero, and vile slander from the usual right-wing pundits against his reputation.

    For the record, this man has an impeccable resume, fighting against terrorism under the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II administrations. It's only under the current Bush White House that Clarke has seen a team drop the ball. Please use the link to the right to reserve your copy. This amazing expose has already reached #5 in Amazon's best seller list!

    Freepers force arrest of a peace rally organizer

    In a new low for the crazed right-wing activists of FreeRepublic (known as "freepers"), we have this disturbing news article from Fresno:
    Peace Fresno Leader Arrested
    By Mike Rhodes
    March 20, 2004

    Ken Hudson, Peace Fresno secretary and a key organizer of today’s event, was arrested at the Global Day of Action march and rally in Fresno. Fresno County Sheriffs arrested Hudson as he showed them the permit Peace Fresno had attained for the rally. The following account of what happened is compiled from numerous eyewitnesses to the event: A man, Peace Fresno activists identified as being associated with the Free Republic, made a citizens complaint to a Sheriff’s deputy. A Sheriff arrived to investigate the complaint and talked to Ken. As Ken held a copy of the permit for the officer to see he was told to leave. Ken continued holding the permit for the officer to see and he stepped back three steps. The Sheriff then called to his partner to arrest Hudson and they proceeded to put him into a police car. As the crowd of over 100 chanted "this is what democracy looks like," Ken was driven away.
    This new wave of right-wing attacks on the left truly worries me. They are sneakier and meaner, infiltrating left-leaning organizations to blow them from the inside. This has to be a new low in McCarthyism. Remember they are doing a similar infiltration of the Sierra Club.

    As expected, the freepers are hi-fiving each other over this dirty trick, and posting death threats to the peace march organizers in their infamous website.

    Blogger David Neiwert elaborates on this awful incident at Orcinus.

    Candy Crowley, unfair and unbalanced

    I had the displeasure of watching "Inside Politics" on CNN this morning. Today it was hosted by the infamous Candy Crowley, who has been carrying water for the Bush team at least since 1999. Remember her disgraceful hit jobs on Gore during the last elections? Remember how she bragged that Bush nicknamed her "Dulce"? Remember how she got tear-eyed on national TV when CNN first announced that Gore, not Bush won the 2000 elections? Yes, that very woman.

    Once again she displayed her partisanship and lack of decorum this morning when she hosted a small debate between Republican bulldog David Dreier (R- California), and Harold Ford, Jr. (D- too polite to debate anyone). Given that Harold Ford couldn't debate his way out of a wet paper bag, judging by his wimpy performance on this show, the Republican bulldog screamed and stepped all over him. In my opinion, Harold Ford performance was nothing sort of an impersonation of Alan Colmes. Candy showed her "fair and balanced" professional attitude by letting the Republican get away with outrageous lies and slander. In any case, the cameras showed Crowley openly laughing out loud every time that Dreier attacked Kerry or rebutted Ford with a nasty piece of propaganda. It was very obvious to anyone on which side Crowley was.

    Then she condescendingly "interviewed" Howard Dean afterwards, and her questions were nothing but a string of undermining hits on Kerry. "Do you still think he's electable?" (paraphrase) was the type of stuff she asked to an obviously frustrated Howard Dean, who responded by telling Crowley that Kerry not only is electable, he will be the next president of the USA.
    Candy smirked.

    Then she had a disgusting report comparing where Bush and Kerry vacation. The impression you got after watching that "report" is that Bush goes back to clear brush, like a real he-man, while Kerry goes on snobby skiing trips to Colorado. The report was peppered with images of manly Bush clearing brush in the ranch with a saw, and demeaning video of a goofy Kerry failing to catch a football, and tripping all over himself. Candy found this report very funny.

    Here's the transcript for the show, which of course doesn't show Crowley's smirks and attitude. Everything in her show oozed contempt for Kerry, from beginning to end.

    People, this is what we are against. A news channel like CNN can pass GOP propaganda as news and opinion, and they are still well over $100 million in funds ahead of the Democratic candidate.

    Please donate to the Kerry campaign. Use the button on this page to donate to the Kerry candidacy. We need all the help that we can get.

    Saturday, March 20, 2004

    Scandal Brewing: Richard Clarke tells it all!

    Recently, former Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill caused a stir when he exposed some of the inner workings of the Bush administration. In the extraordinary book "The Price of Loyalty," Paul O'Neill revealed that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and company started to plan the Iraqi invasion from the very first day they got to the White House. This bombshell revealed that this administration had a pre-set agenda about Iraq even before entering office, and were planning to invade Iraq no matter what.

    Well, now we have a second White House insider telling his story, and it is bound to cause shockwaves.

    This Sunday on the CBS show "Sixty Minutes," former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke reveals that on Sept. 11, 2001, and the day after - when it was clear al Qaeda had carried out the terrorist attacks - the Bush administration was considering bombing Iraq in retaliation. Clarke reveals the following regarding the aftermath of 9/11:
    "Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq....We all said, 'but no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan," recounts Clarke, "and Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.' I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with [the September 11 attacks].'"
    The neocon gang was just looking for a excuse to invade Iraq, and even in the midst of the 9/11 horror they were looking for ways to push their agenda. That is simply outrageous, but Clarke goes even further, claiming that the Bush completely ignored terrorism and his recommendations prior to 9/11. Here's Clarke's quote on that:
    “Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We’ll never know.”
    This is huge!

    "Sixty Minutes" airs on CBS tomorrow Sunday at 7 p.m. ET/PT. Get some pop-corn ready...

    Here's a video from CBS with a excerpt of tomorrow's report.

    Friday, March 19, 2004

    Friday is "Liberal TV Day"

    Friday is a little oasis of truth in the weekly right-wing wasteland of our broadcast media. In a TV landscape saturated by the likes of Hannity, O'Reilly, or Scarborough, you can actually get your break on Fridays. Check you local listings and/or program your VCR (or Tivo) for the following shows:

  • NOW with Bill Moyers (PBS, 8.30pm EST)

  • Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO, 11.30pm EST)

  • Embeded Remorse

    Quote of the day:
    “We failed the American public by being insufficiently critical about elements of the administration’s plan to go to war,”
    -- John Burns, The New York Times Baghdad Bureau chief.

    Daily Californian, Berkeley
    Insufficiently critical? Talk about an understatement!

    It was more like "cheerleading." These people were doing the whole pom-pom routine all through the run-up to war, only to be incremented by their embedded reporters. Does anyone remember the horrendously hacktacular reports from Judith Miller?

    Boundless Republican Hypocrisy

    This report is absolutely amazing. Another example of behavior from the "do as we say, not as we do" party:
    Bush campaign gear made in Burma
    His campaign store sells a pullover from nation whose products he has banned from being sold in the U.S.

    The official merchandise Web site for President George W. Bush's re-election campaign has sold clothing made in Burma, whose goods were banned by Bush from the U.S. last year to punish its military dictatorship.(...)

    This goes well with Arnold Schwarzenegger' stash of Cuban cigars, or the GOP outsourcing their fundraising to telemarketers in India. Lovely!

    Paul Krugman rocks!

    Today's Paul Krugman's column the NY Times is, as always, a must read. He covers the Bush and Kerry campaigns, and also the vicious rhetoric from the right regarding the Spanish elections:

    Taken for a Ride

    Thursday, March 18, 2004

    October Surprise in March?

    Blogger Blah3 is reporting some rumors that are coming out of Pakistan today, possibly explained by an early capture of Osama Bin Laden:
    I think this is particularly disgraceful in the face of the suspicious two-face attitude of both Musharraf and most Pakistanis about islamic terrorism.
    What's next, Saudi Arabia awarded for its record on human rights? And remember, under Musharraf the Pakistani government has SOLD nuclear weapons to third world countries and known enemies of the US. What the heck are we rewarding here?

    Something fishy may be going on ...

    ON EDIT:

    Apparently the target is Al Qaeda's #2, Ayman al-Zawahri.

    Banana Republic

    Another day, another outrage. This one is brought to you by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his lacking sense of decorum:
    Justice Scalia Refuses to Recuse in Cheney Case

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refused on Thursday to remove himself from a case about Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force and said his impartiality could not be questioned despite their recent duck-hunting trip.

    "Since I do not believe my impartiality can reasonably be questioned, I do not think it would be proper for me to recuse," he said in a 21-page memorandum released by the high court.

    The Sierra Club environmental group, which sued Cheney for the task force papers, had filed a motion asking that Scalia be disqualified from the case because the January trip had created an appearance of impropriety.

    According to the motion, Scalia was Cheney's guest on Air Force Two on a Jan. 5 flight to Louisiana. Cheney and Scalia were guests of the president of an energy services company on a duck-hunting vacation. (...)
    When crap like this happens in other countries, we quickly slap the term "banana republic" without reservations. Well, this type of thing happening right here and now. I guess that since the infamous Supreme Court decision of December 2000, the "Scalia five" keep proving there's no low they won't reach.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2004

    Rumsfeld Redefines 'Chutzpah'

    From now on, when you look up the word "chutzpah" in the dictionary, this is what you are going to find:

    chutz·pah also hutz·pah   
    Pronunciation Key   KHõõt'spå, hððt'-

    Word Origin: [Yiddish khutspe, from HuSpâ, from HâSSap, meaning to be insolent.]

    1. Utter nerve; effrontery: “has the chutzpah to claim a lock on God and morality” (New York Times).

    2. Anything that comes out of Donald Rumsfeld's mouth, Secretary of Defense for the George W. Bush administration.


    Well, you have to see this video from MoveOn.org:
    Rumsfeld -- caught on camera
    Make sure you donate to MoveOn.org; the work these guys are doing is priceless.

    Worth a Thousand Words

    New works by Dirk Staschke displayed at the Wexler Gallery, Philadephia.

    Dirk Staschke
    "War Hero, Easter Bunny, Santa" (2004)
    Ceramic and fabric
    34 x 12 x 6 inches each

    That's an excellent portrayal of the "play dress-up" president...


    Wingnut Patriots React to Spanish Elections

    In a brazen display of patriotism, Republicans and red-blooded wingnuts all over this nation of us will now respond to the upset of the Spanish elections and the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq by starting a boycott. The same way they reacted to French products after France refused to join Junior's wonderful Iraqi adventure, self-appointed patriots from coast to coast are considering a boycott of Spanish products and brands.

    Unfortunately, given the knowledge of world affairs, history and geography of your average right-winger (Freeper or otherwise), they'll start by boycotting Taco Bell!

    Tuesday, March 16, 2004

    The Daily Show rocks!

    A few minutes ago Jon Stewart ripped a new one to arch-conservative, Ayn-Rand fanatic, anti-government activist, and minor media celebrity John Stossel. Man, it was beautiful!

    Those in the West coast, make sure you catch at 11.00 pm tonight!!!

    (If you missed it, you can catch the rerun on Comedy Central tomorrow at 7:00 pm.)

    CNN: Blurring the Line Between News and Propaganda

    In the last few years I have noticed an increasingly common trend in the news networks, and particularly on CNN: when they need someone to discuss or explain a complex issue, instead of bringing two experts (one pro, one con), they simply bring ONE guy, usually from a very conservative think-tank, to “explain it all to us.” They usually do it with the excuse that this “expert” has the breadth of knowledge and experience to explain the topic to the CNN audience; unfortunately, with this explanation comes intertwined a lot of right-wing propaganda and fear mongering.

    I just witnessed this practice on CNN this morning. In the “American Morning” show, Bill Hemmer brought an “expert” to explain to us what the results of the Spanish elections. The expert they brought was Radek Sikorski, resident fellow of the ultra-conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute. Sikorski proceeded to paint a terrifying picture of a socialist and anti-American Europe, united against the USA. If I recall correctly, he actually employed those very words. Of course the now mandatory reference to these election results as a “victory for Al Qaeda” was used, and a wide-eyed Bill Hemmer expressed his fear and concern at this “worrisome situation.” The expression “Old Europe”, a misleading and insulting term coined by Rumsfeld to dismiss those who opposed the Iraqi adventure, was liberally used by both Hemmer and Sikorski.

    Of course, since Sikorski was there just to spew the ultra-conservative talking points, he didn’t mention that the new Spanish PM has repeated his commitment to the fight against terrorism, despite bowing to return teh Spanish troops from the Iraqi mess. A fear-mongering Radek Sikorski mentioned repeatedly the horrors of this “socialist” rule in Spain, but avoided to mention that the PSOE is no more socialist or leftist than any other similar party in Europe (like the UK’s Labour Party), and that the “Socialist” part of their name is mainly a tradition. This is not a “communist regime” that has been installed in Spain: in four years they can be voted out by the people, or reelected for that matter. Once again, neither one of them mentioned this is the direct result of the conservative party’s decision to get Spain involved in Iraq against the will of 90% of the population of Spain.

    Time and time again, CNN is passing propaganda as “expert views.” Shameful.

    Monday, March 15, 2004

    The Official Story

    I watched the evening news on CNN, MSNBC and PBS (Jim Lehrer), and was unpleasantly surprised to see that ALL OF THEM were parroting the official Bushie line regarding the Spanish elections. It was truly surreal to see three distinct networks reporting an international event in the same terms and using even the same words.

    The "official story" here is that the victory of the PSOE and the defeat of Aznar is a "victory for Al Qaeda" and how this may affect the "steady resolve" of Bush in cleansing the world of all evil ever... it was truly pathetic. The talking heads at MSNBC were going apoplectic over this. What did really surprise me, though, is how much of this pro-Bush storyline was used by an apparently more "respectable" news show like Lehrer's.

    It seems clear to me the news networks are almost worthless when dealing with a complex issue, even more when it also happens to be a foreign issue. With such inability to walk and chew gum at the same time, it doesn't surprise me that the news networks basically take the RNC fax with the Republican talking points, and just run with it. I also noticed how NONE of them mentioned the anger in Spain at the PP for mishandling (if not manipulating) the release of information regarding the investigation of the terrorist attacks. Also, most of them ignored the fact that last year Aznar joined the Iraqi war against the very vocal wishes of 90% of Spaniards.

    Truly embarrassing.

    Sully is a joke, a rancid, tasteless, bad joke

    Just in case there were any doubts of the lack of seriousness and wildly wacky views of Andy Sullivan, this is what he has to say regarding the Spanish elections:
    "BIN LADEN'S VICTORY IN SPAIN: It's a spectacular result for Islamist terrorism, and a chilling portent of Europe's future. A close election campaign, with Aznar's party slightly ahead, ended with the Popular Party's defeat and the socialist opposition winning."
    No Andy, it was a spectacular result for democracy, the people exercising their right to elect those leaders of their choosing. You can look it up. Not everybody responds to fear with the type of knee-jerk reactions you expect. Actually, some folks exercise their democratic right and kick out of office those leaders who got them in an unnecessary and stupid war against their will (90% of Spaniards opposed the war). Let's repeat that again, unnecessary and stupid war that couch neocons like yourself enthusiastically cheered.

    Big Brother Ashcroft, now and then

    John Ashcroft NOW:
    FBI adds to wiretap wish list
    A far-reaching proposal from the FBI, made public Friday, would require all broadband Internet providers, including cable modem and DSL companies, to rewire their networks to support easy wiretapping by police.
    John Ashcroft THEN (1997):
    "Keep Big Brother's hands off the Internet"

    USIA Electronic Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4, October 19

    You see, censorship, wiretapping, and violating the privacy of citizens is just fine, as long as it's Holly John Ashcroft and his minions doing the snooping.

    Talking Points Memo

    For a guy like Joshua Micah Marshal, who claims to have a very limited knowledge of the political scene in Spain, he really nails it. Check out his excellent post on the subject.

    Sunday, March 14, 2004

    Spain punishes Aznar: Zapatero new PM

    Spain has a new Prime Minister. Spaniards have voted against the incumbent candidate of the PP, Rajoy for two major reasons: first, the mismanagement of the information regarding the terrorist attack of last Thursday; second, the fact that the PP got Spain in the Iraqi war despite the overwhelming rejection of the Spanish population to the little imperial game of George Bush. Over 90% of Spaniards rejected the intervention of Spain in that mess.

    The negative note of the results of this election is the fact that Al Qaeda interrupted the democratic process with the terrorist attacks of last Thursday. The PP made two big mistakes: first, Aznar allowed the election dates to stand in the midst of this tragedy, instead of postponing the whole thing a little, even just a few weeks. Second, they seriously mismanaged the information regarding the investigation, particularly on Saturday, and people took note.

    On Thursday and Friday, right after the terrorist attacks took place, there were plenty of reasons to suspect ETA as the culprit. I have listed several of those in this blog. But late on Friday there seemed to be serious indications that Al Qaeda may actually have been behind the attacks. Instead of promptly informing the population of these events, the leaders of the PP kept insisting ETA was responsible for the attacks. Keep in mind all this happened while the Spanish news media kept reporting that new evidence seemed to confirm the Al Qaeda link. It appeared to be an obvious attempt on the part of the PP to avoid the issue.
    Sloppy performance at best; cynical lying at worst.

    On the positive side, the results of the Spanish elections give us a few interesting things to note:

    Tony and Silvio may lose some sleep over the results of the Spanish elections.

    Fox News: Ignorants 'R' Us

    I don't have a transcript for it, but several posters claim that the talking heads of Fox News made the same historical mistake time and time again today. Apparently, while covering the elections in Spain, three different Fox News anchors referred to former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco as a "socialist".

    I don't know if the dumbells at Fox News are just ignorant (it wouldn't surprise me a bit), or explicitly trying to manipulate history to fit their political script, which would be despicable. Fox News, after all, has a long track record of rewriting history to fit their conservative agenda.

    In any case, for those unaware, Francisco Franco was a fascist, an ultra right-wing fascist that ruled Spain with an iron fist. He started the Spanish Civil War with the military help of Hitler and Mussolini, and maintained a brutal dictatorship that ended in 1975 with his death. Here's a recent NY Times article on this historical figure.

    So now you know, according to the wacky world of Fox News, Franco has gone from right-wing fascist dictator to socialist.. and if they keep it this way, Fox will soon report that Franco was a pot-smoking hippy...

    Spanish Elections Results

    Exit Polls Show Incumbents Losing Spain

    MADRID, Spain - Spain's governing party was losing a large number of seats in Sunday's parliamentary elections, exit polls showed, opening the way for a possible victory by the opposition Socialists.

    Saturday, March 13, 2004

    Terrorist attack in Spain

    Spanish authorities just detained five foreign citizens, three from Morocco, two from India in relation with the terrorist attacks of Thursday, according to the daily El Mundo (note: link to electronic translation).

    They were able to track back the telephone numbers of these individuals through a calling card left in the stolen van. This is the same stolen van where police found seven remote bomb detonators and a tape with Koranic verses.


    Terrorist attack in Spain
    Update on the tragedy

    Some of the wounded have succumbed to their injuries. The death toll rises to 200 people.

    Following up on the investigation, RTVE news service reports more details about the latest discoveries. Apparently some of the bombs were made with a very common explosive used by ETA. About a week ago, Spanish authorities arrested two ETA terrorists driving a van with near 1200 lbs of the exact same explosive, in their way to Madrid.

    Well, they have also discovered that some of the bombs used the explosive "goma dos", or plastique explosive, overwhelmingly used by ETA in the past.

    Also, last Christmas Eve, Spanish authorities arrested ETA activists planning to blow up trains in the other major train hub of Madrid, Chamartín station. Days after, the police also arrested two additional ETA terrorists and seized about 250 lbs of dynamite. Apparently they were planning to explode the bombs in commercial centers and malls on New Year's eve.

    Although there's a questionable letter published in London claiming responsibility by Al Qaeda, the "Occam's Razor" principle still points overwhelmingly to ETA. The BBC even suggests a potential collaboration between ETA and Al Qaeda. Very scary, if true.

    Mickey Kaus does it again

    I mean, what else does this guy have to do to demonstrate he's an uninformed buffoon typing really uninformed and poorly reasoned speculation? Not much more than this, I guess:
    Isn't it pretty obvious that what just happened in Spain is a preview of what Al Qaeda has planned for the U.S. shortly before our elections?

    The immediate impact of a series of preelection bombings would be to help Bush, no--just as yesterday's bombings are expected to help the conservatives in the impending Spanish election?"

    "Obvious"? Wow, Mickey, you sure have a psychic connection with Osama, or something.

    Truly, the depths of disinformation and poor grasp of issues by Mickey Kaus never ceases to amaze me. This guy gets paid to write this tyep of crap? Incredible.

    On edit: BusyBusyBusy just nails it.

    Thursday, March 11, 2004

    Terrorist attack in Spain
    Investigators: original plan was even worse

    I'm watching several TV networks from Spain, via satellite, trying to get the very latest on the horrendous events that took place in Madrid. The news service of TVE just released the two following reports concerning the investigation (I'll translate to the best of my abilities):

    Still to early to know. The police is frantically looking for any clue, and open to any possibilities.

    Alleged Al Qaeda Letter Claims Responsibility for Spain Bombings - experts dismiss it as not credible

    Breaking news just posted.

    Experts affirmed that these claims of responsibility are not credible. Apparently that group, the so-called "Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades," claims responsibility for every disaster that happens in any Western country. They claimed to be the "authors" of last summer's blackout in the US. It has been demonstrated a complete fabrication on their part.

    Breaking News

    Both the BBC and several Spanish papers are reporting there may be an Islamic connection to the bombings.

    Police has found an abandoned van near the town of Alcalá de Henares with seven bomb detonators and an audio tape in Arabic with passages of the Koran.

    But according to a report from El Mundo, the audiotape found in the van is actually used to learn Arabic, just an audio aid to a language course.


    Terrible day

    Some days are just awful. I've been on the phone with friends and relatives since about 5:00 AM (New York time), trying to account for everyone. I have relatives and friends living very near the Atocha station in Madrid. As a matter of fact that's the train/subway hub they take every day to go to work. Fortunately, almost everyone has been accounted for, and I'm still trying to reach a couple of friends.

    According to the Spanish news agency EFE, the number of casualties keeps raising. As of now, 182 killed and 1.247 wounded. Traffic in Madrid is an absolute chaos, and entire city is in shock.

    This slideshow from The New York Times is overwhelming.

    Reuters still doesn't get it

    When it comes to Reuters reporting on Spain, you can expect condescending stereotypes and misconceptions. When when it comes to reporting on the conflict with ETA, the clueless work of Reuters reaches new levels.

    Instead of referring to ETA as a terrorist organization, the misinformed Reuters reporters keep using terms like "guerrillas," or "separatist group" that is only "struggling for independence." Reuters doesn't mince words when talking about Al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization, but when it comes to ETA, a sudden veil of romantic "freedom fighter" is applied to the coverage.

    Use this link to tell Reuters that ETA is a well organized terrorist organization, that the UN, the European Union, the Interpol, and the US Department of State classify ETA as one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations acting today:

  • Reuters editorial feedback

    Here's the link to the US Department of State designated foreign terrorist organizations, and this is the page about ETA.

  • World
    Terrorist carnage in Spain
    Several explosions kill 173, wound over 898 in rush-hour commuter trains

    Allegedly the terrorist group ETA is responsible for the massacre.

    For direct coverage from Spain (in Spanish), check out the daily El Mundo
    Excellent coverage by the BBC, UK, as usual.

    Commuters describe Madrid blast chaos, BBC, UK.

    Just a week ago, the police detained a couple of suspected ETA terrorists in their way to Madrid with more than 1,100 pounds of explosives:

    Spain Says Seizure of Huge Truck Bomb Averts Massacre - Feb 29, 2004

    Wednesday, March 10, 2004

    Tenet keeps covering for the Bush admin.

    What do they have on Tenet? Do they keep hanging some embarrassing pictures of youthful indiscretions over his head? Are they promising him a prime spot in a potential second term? Or is it the other way around: as long as he keeps defending the Bush team, Tenet knows he can keep his job?

    Whatever it is, it's certainly making Tenet take the blame for any intelligence failure and, what's more, keep denying that the Bush administration hyped or exaggerated the reasons for war in Iraq. This, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary:
    Tenet defends Iraq intelligence

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- CIA chief George Tenet said Tuesday he does not believe the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify war in Iraq but declined to say whether he tried to cool U.S. officials' rhetoric about the now-disputed claim Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

    "I'm not going to sit here today and tell you what my interaction was ... and what I did and didn't do, except that you have to have confidence to know that when I believed that somebody was misconstruing intelligence, I said something about it," Tenet told a congressional hearing. "I don't stand up publicly and do it." (...)
    Like Colin Powell, this is a guy who has sacrificed his credibility and put his career on the line to serve the questionable purposes of the Bush administration. I think history won't be kind to either one of them.

    Compare Tenet's apologies with this revealing article by the Los Angeles Times. Apparently the personal spy unit created by Rumsfeld completely bypassed the intelligence provided by the CIA, and produced whatever was necessary to justify their goals:

    Spy Unit Skirted CIA on Iraq

    WASHINGTON — A special intelligence unit at the Pentagon privately briefed senior officials at the White House on alleged ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda without the knowledge of CIA Director George J. Tenet, according to new information presented at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

    The disclosure suggests that the controversial Pentagon office played a greater role than previously understood in shaping the administration's views on Iraq's alleged ties to the terrorist network behind the Sept. 11 attacks, and bypassed usual channels to make a case that conflicted with the conclusions of CIA analysts. (...)
    The evidence keeps piling up...

    Tuesday, March 09, 2004

    Just confirmed: Iraq will have a civil war

    I'm kidding, of course.. I just happen to read the following Reuters headline and it came to me naturally:
    CIA Director Sees 'Low' Chance for Iraq Civil War
    I mean, this bunch in the White House has a track record for mispredicting just about everything... and wasn't Tenet standing right by Colin Powell when he lied repeatedly about Iraqi WMD to the U.N.? Wasn't he backing up every misstatement of fact, and every misleading item presented by the Bush administration to justify the war?

    Three men with no credibility left.

    Censorship: coming to your TV screen

    Apparently, the RNC is going out of its way to warn TV stations that they shouldn't air ads from MoveOn.org (or any TV ad that shows Bush in a negative light). They are doing this as they pressure the FEC to change the rules of engagement, so any ads criticizing Bush will be automatically banished.

    Besides demonstrating that the GOP is becoming the party of gerrymandering, changing the rules of engagement when it's convenient, and proving once again that this crop of Republicans are growing the size and influence of government to worrying levels, this type of action makes me wonder if we are becoming a pseudo-monarchy. At what point of our history did we decide that the democratically elected presidency needed to be turned into a dynastic rule beyond criticism? Was it 9/11? Was it December 2000? And this is what troubles me the most: when did Americans get muzzled and actually stop caring about being censored by the government?

    Next time a Republican claims his party is all "for small government" just show them the facts.

    Monday, March 08, 2004

    Film Review
    "Schindler's List" finally released on DVD

    One of the most awaited DVD releases is finally hitting the stores on Tuesday. I was able to review a copy last week (yup, I have some connections), and was really impressed. The DVD release definitely does justice to the movie. The MPEG video transfer is extremely clear and clean, one of the best I've seen so far. The movie has been divided in two parts, due to its length, and the two parts have been placed in a two-sided disk instead of the usual two-disk box. The DVD comes with a booklet from the Shoah Foundation, and includes a few extras in the B-side, right after the second half of the movie.

    The extras include the very moving documentary "Voices from the List", and a documentary by Spielberg about the work of the Shoah Foundation.

    To couple the excellent video transfer of the movie, they have included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtracks. I'm a big fan of DTS sound, and I always look for DVDs that include this encoding. It's difficult to describe, but to me, DTS seems to have "mass." I find DTS surround sound to have a greater dimension than Dolby Digital 5.1, creating a higher degree of realism.

    Also included, soundtracks in French and Spanish. Quite a complete DVD release.

    After a long wait, it's great to be able to see this masterpiece once again in superb quality. This one is a keeper.

    Kerry way ahead of Bush!

    Atrios just pointed to a very revealing Gallup/CNN poll that puts Kerry ahead of Bush by a wide margin:

    Poll: No bounce for Bush

    WASHINGTON (USATODAY.com) — President Bush got no bounce from his first foray last week onto the campaign trail against Democrat John Kerry, a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows.
    Despite a series of speeches in which he attacked the Massachusetts senator's record and warned that the country would not be safe under his leadership, the poll shows that if the election were today, Kerry would beat Bush, by eight percentage points — 52% to 44% — among likely voters (...)

    Film Reviews
    The Passion of the Christ

    Here is my detailed review of the movie, and for full disclosure, I have been raised Roman Catholic, although I've grown more agnostic and detached from the church.

    As someone who's drifted from periods of religiosity to times of complete agnosticism, I believe I had the fairness of mind, and at the same time familiarity with the Gospels to evaluate this movie from several differing angles. For the past year I had read so much about "The Passion," both pro and con, that I had to see it and evaluate it on my own, sorting through the hype, the controversy and the invective.

    I have to confess I was nervous when I went to see it. I had butterflies in the pit on my stomach, anticipating overwhelming violence or, as others have written, a pure religious experience beyond the movie screen. In the end, I found neither. Still, I wanted to make sure my viewing and review of the movie was impartial.

    The movie, like any other cinematic work of art, had its good parts, its bad parts, and its very ugly ones. As a personal tribute to Sergio Leone, I will structure my comments in those very three categories:


    THE GOODTHE BADTHE UGLYIn brief, it's not an "accurate portrayal" of the Gospels, but rather a film version of medieval passion plays, or as reflected in the paintings of Caravaggio, Velázquez, Titian, or El Greco. Those are the movie's visual inspirations. As far as the biblical content of the movie, Mel Gibson follows the events described in the Gospels literally… but then he adds some stuff that's nowhere to be found in the scriptures. These "enhancements" to the story are historically inaccurate, and can be certainly argued that seem aimed to vilify the Jews. I have read that initially Mel Gibson mentioned that his movie was based on a book by a 19th century mystical nun called Anne Catherine Emmerich, but then, when the charges of anti-Semitism started to surface, Mel Gibson recanted. This book was an account of the gory "visions" and dreams of Emmerich about the death of Jesus, and according to those who have read it, the book oozes hatred for the Jews.

    I think it was dishonest for Gibson to claim the movie was a literal transcription of the Gospels, and then include elements from the book of Emmerich that do not have any historic or biblical foundation.

    Among the historically inaccurate elements that Gibson added to the movie, these are the ones that really did bother me:

    I'm developing a longer list of historical inaccuracies that I found in the movie, and will post them in the coming days.

    Saturday, March 06, 2004

    Boy Genius?

    Bill Maher made a great point in last night's "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO. He said that Karl Rove, dubbed "Boy Genius" by his GOP masters, is actually not that much of a genius. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

    Karl Rove is a brilliant dirty-trickster. He is vicious when attacking, smearing, and destroying the political careers of others, but his efforts in managing a campaign are histrionic and over-the-top theatrics that fail miserably. Think about the landing on the Lincoln carrier, remember the "fake turkey" photo-op in Iraq, now his plan to have the RNC convention at the ruins of the WTC. Those are cheesy, rancid, blatantly obvious photo-ops straight out of Stalin's image management style-guide.

    Friday, March 05, 2004

    So, global climate change needs more study...

    According to the brains in the Bush administration, global climate change is a myth, something that needs further scientific research, or more "sound science" (code for "we just don't like those scientific findings"). They keep mocking and dismissing solid scientific findings corroborated by researchers all over the world, and even by their own Pentagon.

    Well, they better start pumping some serious cash on so-called "sound science", cause nature ain't waitin':
    'Three-headed frog' leaves experts on the hop

    The Independent, UK -- A mutant frog with three heads and six legs was on the run in Somerset yesterday after being photographed in the garden of a children's nursery.(...)

    "At first we just thought it was three few frogs piled on top of each other but then it leapt up at us as one thing. The skin of the three heads all seemed to be one piece of skin," Ms Twinn said. "The children were all excited. They are all under four, so I suppose they were too young to be scared. I suppose they thought it was a bit of Harry Potter come to the Green Umbrella." (...)

    Mike Dilger, a wildlife biologist, said: "As far as I am aware it is unprecedented. Frogs have a very primitive embryology - so the occasional extra toe is not that unusual. But this is something different."

    He said the reason for the three-headed frog's development could have been damage to the embryo, a spontaneous mutation such as that of conjoined human twins or factors in the environment, including pollution.
    I think these aberrations of nature are just a warning sign, the "canary in the coal mine", if you will. it really scares the heck outta me!

    Here you have more reports with photos of the creature. Ugh!:
    BBC News, UK

    ITV News, UK

    Culture Wars
    Fighting Back in the Culture Wars

    David Neiwert just posted a refreshing article about some people actually refusing to shut up and take it while the theocratic right rams pseudo-science in our schools:
    Objecting to 'origins': Darby student protest highlights concern over new policy

    About one-third of the high school's 170 students Wednesday walked out of school 15 minutes before the bell rang and assembled between U.S. 93 and school property in protest of the school board's decisions to question evolution.

    Carrying signs criticizing the newly adopted policy, students walked the sidewalk and drew honks and yells from passers-by hoping school officials and trustees would take heed.

    "Students really care what's going on in the school," said senior Aaron Lebowitz, who organized the protest. "(The school board) has been on their own track and haven't really listened to us."

    It's refreshing to see how some in the new generations are willing to fight for what's sensible.
    A big round of applause for these guys.

    Music Reviews
    Laurie Anderson & Ethel in concert

    Last week we saw Laurie Anderson and Ethel in concert in New York. It was sponsored by WNYC, New York Public Radio. If I remember correctly, the show will be re-broadcast on John Schaefer's show "New Sounds" on March 8.

    It was the first time I saw the string band Ethel in concert, and I thought they were extraordinary. They reminded me of the Kronos Quartet with a huge infusion of rock in their music. A very powerful performance.

    Laurie Anderson (© Noah Greenberg)Laurie Anderson, as usual, was great. She presented some new, unreleased tracks that reminded me of her work in "The Ugly One With The Jewels." Her voice-over commentaries and lyrics took you in an emotional ride, from laughter to sadness. She's as wonderful as ever, and her relatively short performance left us craving for more.

    Last time I saw Laurie Anderson was a few days after 9/11, and I had the privilege of chatting with her after the concert. The context of the tragic events in New York changed the meaning and depth of the lyrics of some of the tracks she played from her repertoire. Particularly "O Superman", a song originally released in 1981, gave me chills down my spine.

    I'm glad to see she's preparing new material for a new album. That's always good news.

    Culture Wars
    Theocons vs. neocons

    Sidney Blumenthal has a great column at Salon.com that explains why Bush is going out of his way to appeal to his troglodyte base. Furthermore, the "culture wars" that the Bush administration is inflicting upon us are creating an environment of division and extremism where a medievalist, inaccurate passion play like Mel Gibson's latest movie can become a success at the box office. Here are some excellent excerpts:
    Just as Bush stokes the culture war, Mel Gibson enters sprinkling holy gasoline on the fires. Only in the combustible atmosphere Bush has fostered could Gibson's grand guignol version of an anti-Semitic medieval passion play, "The Passion of the Christ," become the No. 1 box office hit. This is the ultimate "Mad Max" escapade: blowing up the cultural contradictions of American conservatism.

    Bush's bid for a Republican "realignment" based on Jewish voters, by giving the neocons the franchise on the Middle East, is being washed away in the blood of "The Passion." The leading neocon columnist, William Safire of the New York Times, has denounced the film as "the bloodiest, most brutal example of sustained sadism ever presented on the screen" and compared it to the passion plays of "pre-Hitler Germany."

    The price Bush has paid for the chimera of gaining a segment of the Jewish vote is the greatest price he's paid. But his political miscalculation at home is far outweighed by the disastrous consequences in the Middle East. Desperately he is campaigning on behalf of his various fundamentalisms in a crusade against modernity in America, his greatest war of all.
    So far, the strategy of Karl Rove in the "re-election" efforts has been to embrace the extreme right and appear as divisive and reactionary as possible. I wonder how this is going to play anywhere out of the "red states."

    Thursday, March 04, 2004

    Hi everyone!

    I finally made it to the blogosphere! Many of you may know me from Salon Magazine's TableTalk board. Many of you knew I couldn't resist the appeal of getting my own soap box.

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